I’m having an existential crisis. I was having an existential crisis. I’m not too sure what an existential crisis is but I sure as heck had a crisis.
Context: One of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in Ueno is the way in which space in utilized. Underneath approximately 10 rows of tracks lie various shops and restaurants where people gather to eat and drink together. Most restaurants are right underneath the tracks so every few minutes you can hear the screaming of steel on steel. You get used to it after a while.
Somewhere around 6 p.m., hunger found me. I’d been walking around Ueno for so long, smelling fresh fish in the market, looking at rows of raw meat, shopping in flea markets and chewing on a pineapple stick. However, I got hungry for something hefty. I saw this tiny place full of locals – actually most of the restaurants there, if not all, only had locals – eating out of a crab head. It looked really good. If you know me at all, you know I’m a sucker for crab. And now, I find crab in Japan, my most favorite place in the world so far (probably forever, let’s be real). I mean… Win much?
So I sit, I order, I’m writing in my journal and a few minutes after my dish arrives, a group of four older Japanese men sit right at my side. We exchange formalities and they show me how to properly eat my dish. They also proceed to order beer for me and other types of food that they happily care to share. One of the men points to a white-meat dish. I’ve made it a point during this trip to be a “polite” vegetarian, meaning, I do my absolute best to eat vegetarian, however, when someone offers something or if I order the wrong thing, I go with it. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Well, when in Japan… I might as well spill it. I ate whale. I. Ate. Whale. Writing it makes it so official. I can’t even hide the truth. It’s just TOO big. I ate whale. When the nice man offered me “U – E – RU”, I would have never guessed he meant “Wha-le”. When I asked him what it was after chomping the rubbery thing down, he had to point to the picture of the whale on the wall so I’d understand. To my surprise, there were a few dozen pictures of whales all over the place. I had assumed they were just décor! The guilt. The hurt. The whale. I ate Willy’s cousin, or brother, or aunt, or sister.
So today, to make up for eating whale, I spent 800$ on a 130 year old silver pocket watch for a loved one. Ha. I wish. But I almost did (accidentally). I found it in a beautiful antique market that happens once a month on the grounds of a shrine near Ichigaya station. Most of the relics date from centuries ago; there were old photographs from before the war, where even during celebrations, no one smiled; there were old porcelain teapots and teacups, lighters from the 50s, kimono dresses, jewelry, swords, antique guns and so much more.
I could write a novel about the people I’ve met, the things I’ve done, the lessons I’ve learned as a solo traveller, and all of Tokyo’s different qualities. But, I wouldn’t do any of it justice. I can’t explain to you in words why, at every turn, my breath catches in my throat and I feel a big ping in my chest. I can’t explain that. I’m not that good a writer. I can only say that I believe everyone should, at least once in his or her lifetime, visit Tokyo.